The ‘something must be done’ brigade have been in full voice in recent weeks. No-one doubts the threat posed by the upsurge of violence in the Middle East, but the situation is complex and difficult and the history of western intervention is fairly disastrous. So, for example, one of the consequences of the overthrow of Saddam, the tyrant that he was, has been the persecution of Christian minorities that he protected. Similarly with Assad. That does not justify those regimes but it does indicate this is not so simple as the armchair strategist would have us believe. And how noticeable that the ‘something must be done’ brigade, who were so loud in demanding the bombing of Syria, are now arguing we had better side with him against the greater enemy.
The demands for instant action spill over into demands for yet more draconian laws targeted at the Muslim community in the UK. Meanwhile, little is done to build community cohesion or support the work of those in the Muslim communities and their charities who work against extremism. Indeed the shrill demands for tighter laws simply encourage a feeling of alienation in those communities, and make the work of Muslim charities so much more difficult. Why is the government not doing more to support charities and voluntary and community groups in this work? Support for such groups has often in fact been cut or removed.
Too little attention has been paid to the painstaking and patient work that needs to go on building better community relations. It is crucial in tackling extremism. This is why the perception of bias is so damaging to the Charity Commission and we have yet to see what action they will take to counteract this perception. It’s important they do this, just as the Government now need to think through their community building programmes, including ‘Prevent’.
In the short term too there is something to be done - to support the work of the many UK and international charities doing crucial humanitarian work in the most difficult circumstances, in Syria and Jordan, Gaza and Iraq. This is where we can make a difference and where the generous impulse of so many British citizens can be transformative.
Let’s support the work of Save the Children, Unicef , Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam amongst others.
And in particular support the DEC appeal for Gaza. The horrifying consequences of the conflict on ordinary citizens has been horrendous there and in other parts of the region.
I have donated. I urge you to do the same.
You can find the DEC Gaza appeal website here: www.dec.org.uk/appeals/gaza-crisis-2014
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